A fishing excursion ended in tragedy on Saturday when four children and one man died in a village in northeastern Quebec, provincial police said.
The bodies of the four children — all young minors older than 10 — were found unresponsive on the river bank a few hours after an emergency call about a group swept up by the tide near Portneuf-sur-Mer, about 550 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
A man in his 30s who was a member of the fishing party was pulled out of the river by provincial police divers Saturday evening.
They were among a group of 11 people who were fishing for capelin on foot near the shore when they were caught off guard by the rising tide.
Mayor Jean-Maurice Tremblay said Saturday he did not know more about the victims or if they were from Portneuf-sur-Mer, a community of about 600 people.
“Everyone is affected by what happened, because this kind of event, it’s the first time it’s happened,” Tremblay said in French. “When it involves five people, and four children drowning during a recreational activity, it’s certain people are quite sad about it.”
Capelin — a silvery smelt fish — are a forage species consumed by many marine animals, and Tremblay said fishing for them is a popular activity in his part of Quebec’s north shore. It is done on the banks of the river using scoops rather than fishing lines.
Capelin most often roll at night, so people light a fire on the shore and wait, Tremblay added.
Tremblay said the sandbank on which the victims were fishing is accessed by all-terrain vehicles. They were caught on a part of the peninsula where parts can be submerged by up to four metres of water when the tide rises.
Tremblay said it’s important to watch for fluctuating tides, something that’s difficult to identify at night.
A 911 call came in at about 2 a.m. on Saturday, and police say six people were rescued from the water and five others were reported missing.
The bodies of the five victims were transported to a nearby health clinic where a doctor confirmed their deaths.
Police investigators and forensic teams have been deployed to shed light on what happened.